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TinotopiaLog → Someone Else’s Customer Service Rules ( 8 Sep 2005)
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Thursday 08 September 2005

Someone Else’s Customer Service Rules

Rob Griffiths has a customer-service-rules-esque post up.

I have to question his giving Cingular customer service ‘7 out of 10’ even after having to call back three times (twice to deal with Cingular’s bureaucratic requirements, once because he was cut off — strange how common that seems to be when talking to ‘customer service’ types, and how rare otherwise, answer the same questions for the machine and for humans, etc., etc.

In the end, it appears that they actually agreed that he had a problem, and they are attempting to fix it: this might account for his warm fuzzy feelings. But shouldn’t basic competence and fulfillment of contractual obligations be the bare minimum, rather than 7/10?

UPDATE: After getting his new phone in the mail, he found that he was in the same state as before: no data service. He called back and had the problem solved quickly, when the rep had him change the prefix on his ‘APN’ and ‘User Name’ entries from ‘WAP’ to ‘ISP’.

(Cingular probably uses these prefixes to distinguish high-volume data-service accounts like those associated with the Treo from the lower-volume account used with ordinary phones with rudimentary data capabilities: but why? Why on earth does this need to be distinguished in the user name, where it can potentially cause problems like this?)

This knowledgeable rep would seem to have precipitated a Customer Service Victory, but in fact he just averted more of a Customer Service Disaster.

  1. Because of an arbitrary change made by Cingular (from allowing ‘WAP’ to requiring ‘ISP’ as the username etc. prefix), the customer had a problem.
  2. Because of unnecessarily complex procedures (and possible incompetence) in handling the calls, the customer had to call back several times.
  3. Because of an ill-informed tech support rep, the customer was sent a new phone (at a cost to Cingular of, probably, a few hundred dollars)
  4. Which didn’t solve his problem anyway, so the customer was without a service he pays for for at least a day longer than necessary.

Total cost to Cingular: the difference between the cost of a new Treo and the value of an old one, plus the cost to handle four or five phone calls, plus the loss of customer goodwill (though I must say that Griffiths seems more patient than Tino). And what caused this? A change that Cingular made from one method of seemingly pointless network-authentication hoop-jumping to another.

Still, in that the problem was solved in 24 hours seems about as big a win as you can expect from cell phone customer service these days. Certainly it’s different from my recent experience with Cingular, where they overbilled me to the tune of several hundred dollars (they’d signed my account up in the computer for the per-megabyte service plan rather than the flat rate plan specified in the contract) and took a couple months to sort things out. Everyone was quite friendly (except their debt collectors, who were actually pretty nasty about the overcharges I hadn’t paid), and everyone agreed on what had happened and what needed to be done to solve the problem, but I still had to call back seven times and spend hours on the phone to sort out their error.

I now have a phone from a different carrier, thank you very much.

Posted by tino at 10:18 8.09.05
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